He used to be the highest-paid, most-watched actor on TV but now Hugh Laurie has got the blues. To be fair, Laurie has been interested in blues music since he was a child but when he released his debut album Let Them Talk two years ago, the knives and the hatchets were out.
That album title served as a pre-emptive strike against those who reckoned that an Eton/Cambridge educated, millionaire English actor had no place dabbling in the music of pain and poverty.
No doubt Let Them Talk wouldn’t have shifted a million copies if Laurie’s name wasn’t attached to it but he proved that his passion was much more than a rich man’s folly. The same goes for this upholstered follow up and once again, it’s the calibre of the players and singers in The Copper Bottom Band that make it such a pleasant if undemanding listen.
Thankfully Laurie knows full well to take a back seat when the likes of smouldering Guatemalan vocalist Gaby Moreno and a righteously rumbling Taj Mahal (on the fantastic Vicksburg Blues) are in the studio.
His own vocals tend to a kind of a honking affectation but his piano playing is the real deal, especially on the vamping Wild Honey, the best song on the album and no wonder - it’s by Dr John. Kiss Of Fire, previously sang by Nat King Cole, Connie Francis and Louis Armstrong, finds Laurie playing a rather lukewarm Lothoria to Gaby Moreno’s cat house purr but you may come away reminded of Peter Sellers and Sophia Loren’s duet on Goodness Gracious Me.
Laurie’s choice of songs are mostly spot on; The St Louis Blues opens with lonesome pedal steel and blooms into a full tango with rasping vocals by Sista Jean McClain, and Junkers Blues and The Weed Smoker’s Dream could very well be knowing winks to Gregory House, the irascible drug-addled doc himself. But did we really need to hear a well-spoken English gent robbing One for My Baby of all of its rheumy-eyed pathos?
However, in the immortal words of Johnny Rotten, like everything on Didn't it Rain, he means it maaann. Sure this is bespoke dinner party blues but nobody should quibble over the real love and respect Laurie and his absolutely cooking band display on this enjoyable album.